Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century


Over the last hundred years African writers have written of their lives, experiences, culture, history and myth; they have written in diverse forms, styles and in many languages. They have been published widely on the African continent, in Europe, the Americas and Asia. They have written in English, French, Portuguese, Arabic, Swahili, and in many other indigenous languages. And they have written with extraordinary originality, flair and great integrity. Nonetheless their work as a corpus deriving from the African continent remains largely unknown and uncelebrated.

To mark the beginning of the 21st century, and encouraged by Professor Ali Mazrui, the Zimbabwe International Book Fair launched the international compilation of "Africa's 100 Best Books." This project was organized in collaboration with the African Publishers Network (APNET), the Pan-African Booksellers Association (PABA), African writers' associations, book development councils, and library associations.

Nominations were sought throughout the African continent and internationally. A comprehensive list of all nominations was published at the ZIBF in August 2001 and during the course of the following year regional panels compiled their own short lists of 100 best books. Closing date for nominations was 30 September 2001.

A jury made the final decision from the short list and the final list of "Africa's 100 Best Books" was announced on February 18, 2002.

See: a copy of the list below.

This allowed ample time for those involved (authors of nominated books and their publishers) to prepare for participation in ZIBF2002. From August 3rd to the 10th in 2002, the fair participants celebrated the authors and publishers on the final list.

Objectives

The aim of this endeavour is:

  • to celebrate the achievements of African writers over the last century
  • to stimulate debate, discussion, reading, criticism and analysis of African writing
  • to foster the publication and development of new titles and those that are currently out of print
  • to encourage translation of different texts
  • to promote the sale and exchange of books continent-wide and throughout the world
  • and above all to increase awareness and knowledge of books and writing by African authors.

Definition of an African

Only books written by Africans are eligible. After extensive discussion and debate the ZIBF has for the purpose of this project identified an African as: 'someone either born in Africa or who became a citizen of an African country.' This definition incorporates those African writers who have moved from their countries of birth to other continents. The issue of authors who are not by this definition deemed African but who consider themselves such or those who have made a notable contribution to African scholarship and literature will be addressed on their merit should their books be nominated.

Criteria for nomination of a book

Nominations were made on the basis that the book has had a powerful, important or affecting influence on the nominator, as an individual, or on society.

What you can do?

  • Use this project to generate discussion among your colleagues and friends, with your teachers or students, and in the media.
  • Use it as a basis for having African writers in your own cities and countries interviewed, or given a platform to speak and to debate their own work.
  • Use it as a positive vehicle for analysis, serious criticism, debate and scholarship.
  • Use it as an excuse to buy or loan books and to extend the breadth of your knowledge and understanding of the great wealth of fiction and non-fiction written by Africans about their lives and societies.
  • Photocopy, translate, circulate and encourage people to seriously complete the nomination forms. Every serious nomination will lend weight and substance to the list; every book that has made an impact on an individual or on society is worthy of note.

***Africa Book Centre -- Order Catalogue of Best Book Award Winners (Brighton, UK)
-- Commercial site

Please address all queries and ideas directly to:
Zimbabwe International Book Fair Association
P. O. Box CY1179
Causeway
Harare
Zimbabwe

Fax: 263 4 702129


Africa 100 Best Books of the 20th Century--Final List

Arranged in the tables below is a copy of the final list of 100 titles announced by the panel of judges in Accra, Ghana, 18 February 2002.

In the table below, ** indicates a top twelve title.

Literature for children

Asare, Meshack Ghana **Sosu's Call Sub-Saharan Publishers
Al-Homi, Hayam Abbas Egypt Adventures of a Breath Atfalna
Mungoshi, Charles Zimbabwe Stories from a Shona Childhood Baobab Books
Tadjo, Veronique Côte d'Ivoire Mamy Wata et le monstre Nouvelles éditions ivoriennes

Creative writing

Abnudi, `Abd al-Rahman Egypt al-Mawt `ala al-asfalt Atlas
Achebe, Chinua Nigeria Arrow of God Heinemann
Achebe, Chinua Nigeria **Things Fall Apart Heinemann
Aidoo, Ama Ata Ghana Anowa Longman
Almeida, Germano Cape Verde O testamento do Sr. Napumoceno da Silva Araújo Ed. Caminho
Armah, Ayi Kwei Ghana The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born Heinemann
Bâ, Amadou Hampâté Mali L'étrange destin de Wangrin Union générale d'éditions
Bâ, Mariama Senegal **Une si longue lettre Nouvelles éditions africaines
Ben Jelloun, Tahar Morocco La nuit sacrée Seuil
Beti, Mongo Cameroon Le pauvre Christ de Bomba Présence africaine
Brink, André South Africa A Dry White Season Penguin
Bugul, Ken Senegal Riwan, ou le chemin de sable Présence africaine
Cheney-Choker, Syl Sierra Leone The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar Heinemann
Chraibi, Driss Morocco Le passé simple Gallimard
Coetzee, J.M. South Africa Life and Times of
Michael K
Secker & Warburg
Couto, Mia Mozambique **Terra sonâmbula Ed. Caminho
Craveirinha, José Mozambique Karingana ua Karingana Academica
Dadié, Bernard Côte d'Ivoire Climbié Editions Segiers
Dangarembga, Tsitsi Zimbabwe **Nervous Conditions Women's Press
Dib, Mohammed Algeria Algérie, La grande maison, L'incendie, Le métier à tisser Le Seuil
Diop, Birago Senegal Les contes d'Amadou Koumba Présence africaine
Diop, Boubacar Boris Senegal Murambi ou le livre des ossements Stock
Djebar, Assia Algeria **L'amour, la fantasia J.C. Lattes
Emecheta, Buchi Nigeria The Joys of Motherhood Alison and Busby
Fagunwa,
Daniel O.
Nigeria Ogboju ode ninu igbo irunmale Nelson
Farah, Nuruddin Somalia Maps Pan Books
Fugard, Athol South Africa The Blood Knot Simondium Publishers
Ghitani, Jamal al- Egypt Zayni Barakat GEBO
Gordimer, Nadine South Africa Burgher's Daughter Jonathan Cape
Head, Bessie South Africa A Question of Power Heinemann
Honwana, Bernardo Mozambique Nos matamos o cão tinhoso Academica
Hove, Chenjerai Zimbabwe Bones Baobab Books
Isegawa, Moses Uganda Abessijnse Kronieken Uigeverij De
Bezige Bij
Jordan, Archibald Campbell South Africa Ingqumbo yeminyanya Lovedale Press
Joubert, Elsa South Africa Die Swerdjare van Poppie Nongena Tafelberg
Kane, Cheikh Hamidou Senegal L'aventure ambiguë Editions Juillard
Khosa, Ungulani Ba Ka Mozambique Ualalapi AEMO
Kourouma, Ahmadou Côte d'Ivoire Les soleils des indépendances Le Seuil
Laye, Camara Guinea L'enfant noir Plon
Magona, Sindiwe South Africa Living, Loving and Lying Awake at Night David Philip Publishers
Mahfouz, Naguib Egypt **The Cairo Trilogy Maktabet Misr
Marechera, Dambudzo Zimbabwe House of Hunger Heinemann
Mofolo, Thomas Lesotho **Chaka Morija Sesuto Book Depot
Monenembo, Tierno Guinea Un attieké pour Elgass Le Seuil
Mutwa, Vusamazulu Credo South Africa Indaba, My Children Blue Crane Books
Ngugi wa Thiong'o Kenya Caitaani Mutharaba-ini Heinemann
Ngugi wa Thiong'o Kenya **A Grain of Wheat Heinemann
Niane, Djibril Tamsir Senegal Soundjata ou l'épopée mandingue Présence africaine
Nyembezi, Sibusiso South Africa Inkinnsela yaseMgungundlovu Shuter and Shooter
Okigbo, Christopher Nigeria Labyrinths Heinemann
Okri, Ben Nigeria The Famished Road Spectrum Books
Oyono, Ferdinand Cameroon Le vieux nègre et la médaille Editions Juillard
P'Bitek, Okot Uganda Song of Lawino Heinemann
Pepetela Angola A geração da utopia Dom Quixote
Saadawi, Nawal El Egypt Woman at Point Zero Zed Books
Salih El Tayyib Sudan Season of Migration to the North Heinemann
Sassine, Williams Guinea Le jeune homme de sable Présence africaine
Sembene, Ousmane Senegal Les bouts de bois de Dieu Le livre contemporain
Senghor, Léopold Sédar Senegal **Ouevre poétique Le Seuil
Serote, Mongane South Africa Third World Express David Philip Publishers
Shabaan,
Robert Bin
Tanzania Utenzi wa vita vya uhuru East African Literature Bureau
Sony Labou Tansi Congo La vie et demie Seuil
Sow Fall, Aminata Senegal La grève des battus Nouvelles éditions africaines
Soyinka, Wole Nigeria Death and the King's Horsemen Spectrum
Tchicaya U Tam'si Congo Le mauvais sang - feu de brousse - à trisse-coeur P.J. Swald
Tutuola, Amos Nigeria The Palm-wine Drinkard Faber
Vera, Yvonne Zimbabwe Butterfly Burning Baobab Books
Vieira, José Luandino Angola Nós os do Makulusu [União dos Escritores Angolanos]
Vilakazi, B.W. South Africa Amal'eZulu Witwatersrand University Press
Yacine, Kateb Algeria Nedjma Le Seuil

Scholarship/non-fiction

Amin, Samir Egypt Accumulation on a World Scale Monthly Review Press
Amadiume, Ifi Nigeria Male Daughters, Female Husbands Zed Books
Andrade,
Mario de
Angola Os nacionalismos africanos Sa da Costa
Appiah, Anthony Ghana In My Father's House Oxford University Press
Cabral, Amilcar Guinea-Bissau Unity and Struggle Monthly Review Press
Chimera, Rocha Kenya Kiswahili, past, present and future horizons Nairobi University Press
Diop, Cheikh Anta Senegal **Antériorité des civilisations nègres Présence africaine
Doorkenoo, Efua Ghana Cutting the Rose Minority Rights Group
Hayford, J.E. Casely Ghana Ethiopia Unbound Cass
Hountondji, Paulin Benin Sur la philosophie africaine François Maspero
Johnson, Samuel Nigeria The History of the Yorubas G. Routledge & Sons
Kenyatta, Jomo Kenya Facing Mount Kenya Secker & Warburg
Ki-Zerbo, Joseph Burkina Faso Histoire de l'Afrique noire Hatier
Krog, Antjie South Africa Country of My Skull Jonathan Cape
Mama, Amina Nigeria Beyond the Mask, Race, Gender and Identity Routledge
Mamdani, Mahmood Uganda Citizen and Subject James Currey Publishers
Mandela, Nelson South Africa Long Walk to Freedom Little Brown
Marais, Eugene South Africa Die Siel van die Mier J.L. van Schaik
Memmi, Albert Tunisia Portrait du colonisé suivi de portrait du colonisateur L'Etincelle
Mondlane, Eduardo Mozambique The Struggle for Mozambique Penguin
Mphahlele, Ezekiel South Africa Down Second Avenue Faber & Faber
Mudimbe, V.Y. Dem. Rep. of Congo The Invention of Africa Indiana University Press
Nkrumah, Kwame Ghana Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah Nelson
Plaatje, Sol South Africa Native Life in South Africa P.S. King
Soyinka, Wole Nigeria **Ake: The Years of Childhood Rex Collings
Van Onselen, Charles South Africa The Seed is Mine David Philip Publishers